Three hundred and sixty-six

Three hundred and sixty six days

I made it through it all.  All 366 days of it!

Normally I do a recap of the month, but as this month was a bit of a recap of the year, I’m going to skip that and just do a final post of the year.

Recap of the year

Where do I even begin?  So much has happened over the past year.  I’ve decided the best way is to share my favourite posts, divided by the months.  Although I have lots of ones I am proud of, these in particular resonate with me for some reason or another. (If you want a short description of what I got up to each month, click on the monthly topic below and it will take you to my recap posts for that month.)

MARCH 2011 – Extreme Couponing

APRIL 2011 – 30 Days of Art

MAY 2011 – 31 Days, 31 Dates (there’s a tie with this one – I also really enjoyed my dating advice at the end of my final post for that month)

  • The speed-dating date – I have always wanted to go speed dating and it was quite the experience.  It was one of the worst ‘dates’ of the month, but also one of the most memorable.
  • The social experiment date – A confusing date that forever changed my life, the way I feel about myself, and my future plans (we had a short, passionate affair that ended badly, then I drove across Canada with him during First Kiss Interviews month, we hated each other, then became sort of friends, he made me doubt all the great things about me, and now we don’t really talk – advice to all the ladies out there: listen to your instincts and don’t get blinded by a pretty face).

JUNE 2011 – Cooking 30 Countries (funnily my two favourite posts this month were meals I shared with the man who taught me stop motion animation and the one who confused me)

  • Italian with the Italian – a wonderful evening with a wonderful man, and lots of practical information about Italian cooking.
  • Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi – Kangaroo and Tim Tams.  It reminds me of living in Melbourne, and some very interesting facts about kangaroo meat included.

JULY 2011 – Only Online Purchases

AUGUST 2011 – Out of My Comfort Zone (there were so many great posts this month, but here are a few of my favourites)

SEPTEMBER 2011 – 31 First Kiss Interviews

OCTOBER 2011 – Vegan for the Month

  • Freeganism – I find this world of living without money fascinating, and although extreme, I think we can learn from them.
  • Raw Vegan Food Diet – Another extreme way of eating, taken from a lecture I went to at the University of Toronto.  Lots of great information.
  • Makeup and Skin Care – Interview with Kait Gray from Arbonne.  This changed the way I look at the cosmetics industry.

NOVEMBER 2011 – 30 Holiday Celebrations

  • Guy Fawkes Day – A fascinating discussion with some of the Occupy Toronto camp.
  • Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day – I was a model for the Toronto Star and did an online video for them!
  • Happy Movember – I love this holiday.  Men with moustaches for a month – very sexy in a Tom Selleck sort of way.

DECEMBER 2011 – Good Deed a Day

  • Extremely good and bad people in one day – A shocking negative event followed by an equally shocking positive one.  It brought tears to my eyes.
  • Hitting the bottom mid-month – including a very personal (yet very public because it was on the blog in the comments for all to read) debate between a friend of mine and I which almost cost us our friendship.  The debate crossed several posts, with this being the finale.  It really opened my eyes to my own views, but also how others perceive what I write.
  • The science of good deeds – How good deeds affect us mentally and physically.

JANUARY 2012 – Life at the Poverty Line

FEBRUARY 2012 – A Photograph A Day (month suggested by and voted on by the readers)

What I learned

In each of the month recaps (click on monthly topic above to read them), I talked about what I learned as an initial reaction.  As a year-long learning experience, I have no idea where to start.  I have learned so much from skills to knowledge to personal growth.

I am a different person than when I started March 1st, 2011.  Besides physical changes of losing weight through being vegan (and keeping it off through keeping up the no dairy and yoga), there have been many emotional and psychological changes.  The knowledge I gained about the different topics has given me a wider perspective on the world.  I feel like I have a purpose – like I’m fulfilling a need in myself and sharing it with others.  I am now part of a community of bloggers who are as supportive as they are talented.  I am happy and calmer, but also a bit more jaded with the world (damn porn cinema!).

I gained skills like extreme couponing (the auto correct on my computer kept wanting me to write extreme “coupling” – when you’re tired like I have been on numerous occasions this year and am right now, you find this very amusing) and cooking.  I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to do this and I have such amazing people in my life who support and encourage me.

I wrote this on Day 100 and it still rings true:

There have been days when I’ve hated that I’m doing this – that I’d love a ‘normal’ life where I don’t have to blog and make Taboulleh at 1:30am.  But most days I love it.  I love that I’m learning something new and writing every day.  I love talking about my project – still.  I love sharing my experiences with other people, whether by the blog or by them being a part of whatever adventure I have planned for the day.  I love that I’ve created this for myself (with the help of so many great people) and I feel so fortunate every day that I can do this.  Whether this turns into a million-copy selling book becomes less and less the point (although that would be fantastic).  It’s about the experience, the knowledge and the growth.  And the chance to share that with you.

Where do I go from here

The plan is to write the book about my experiences.  I will also be blogging at least once a week.  Every Wednesday I will post a recap of how things are going with me.  Sometimes it will be a comment on a topic or research on a subject that I’ve discovered about one of the ideas from the year.  And sometimes it will be just about how I’m feeling.  A bit like the daily blog posts I’ve been doing, but on a bigger scale.  I will also be posting occasionally during the week if there is something that inspires me to write or a very interesting or timely topic I want to discuss.  So keep reading for all that.  I will also be updating you all on how the book is coming along and my search for an agent and publisher.  This could be interesting to those of you out there trying to get your own work published.

I’m also going to stick with some of the things I learned this year.  I’m still trying to buy all natural cosmetics, and not eat dairy or pork.  I am determined to pick up my guitar again, paint, make pottery, sew more and do all the other projects I started during art month and never finished.  I still use my online and coupon shopping skills.  I’m still pushing myself to  do things out of my comfort zone on a weekly basis, and I’m a fountain of dating knowledge for my single friends out there.  I’m working on arranging some more volunteer experiences for me to help out more in the community.  I’m donating money regularly to help those less fortunate.  All of these habits I learned through experiences in the past year and I am grateful that I can stick with them.

Thank you again everyone for following along through three hundred sixty six days of posts!  Check back next Wednesday to hear how much I miss my blogging routine, how the book is coming along, and hopefully some other fun information.

Two hundred and forty-five

I made it through vegan month!

I started this month thinking that it would very difficult to get through and that most likely I would jump right back in to eating meat at the end of it (“drooling for that medium rare prime rib” is how I put it).  I knew that it would be annoying to have to look at every label, ask chefs what ingredients are in their cooking, to eat at the Irish pub where I work at.  It turned out not to be that hard.

After the first week of detox headaches and the research figuring out what I can eat and what I need to eat to stay healthy, it wasn’t difficult to stick to the vegan diet.  Sure, there were a few times when I felt like I was missing out (Thanksgiving, pizza at work, birthday cake), but generally I loved being in charge of what I was putting in my body and knowing every ingredient that I was consuming.

There were a few significant physical and emotional changes that happened to me this month.  I’ve lost weight, although I don’t have a scale, so will have to check the exact number when I go visit my folks this week.  I’ve been told my skin is radiant and glowing now.  Because of all the fiber, my “number two”s are great (I know, gross, but worth mentioning).  My period symptoms have been less – less pain, bloating.  My mood has mellowed out – I tend to be happier and can deal with upsets better.

I rarely have a craving for something unhealthy.  My need to eat dairy is non-existent and my desire to eat meat is very minimal.  I eat smaller portions.  I feel healthy and therefore, unlike every other month, I wasn’t counting down the days until the month was over.  I loved this month for what it taught me and how it changed me.

Recap of the month

Each day I tried to touch on a different topic about veganism and what that meant to me.  If you want to check back on a certain area, here are some of the big ideas I covered: history of veganism; detoxing (here and here); vegan recipes (here and here); the honey debatequinoareasons to become vegan; interviews with vegans (Amy and Sheri); small town veganism; beer, wine and spirits – are they vegan?; makeup and skin care (and here); celebrity vegans; animal rights; freeganism; vegan travel; vegan clothing; raw foodism; Skinny Bitch and other vegan books; is vegan right for everyone?.

What did I learn?

One of the reasons I loved this month is there was so much to write about.  I though I’d have a hard time thinking of an interesting blog post every day, but there was so much information I could easily do more research and write another month’s worth of posts.  The amount of facts, statistics, reports, blogs, websites, and interviews that I read this month is huge.  Everything I looked at had new information that changed the way I look at food (and beauty-care products), what I consume, and what kind of food is generally available at the local grocery store.  Some of it shocked and appalled me.  Some of it made me happy and inspired me.

I learned that eating healthy affects not only your physical body, but also your energy, mood, and emotions.

Where do I go from here with veganism?

I’m not that good at doing anything”black and white” – I’m a shades of grey kind of girl.  I believe there are exceptions to every rule.  I will definitely be taking what I learned this month and applying it to my eating habits.  I will eat more raw foods, have vegan meals, read labels for ingredients, choose organic produce, and generally be aware of what I’m putting in my body.  I will not be eating any dairy.

I won’t be as strict, though.  If there is chicken stock in something at a restaurant, I won’t make a fuss.  I will have the occasional egg and meat, as long as I know exactly where it is coming from – free range, local, organic, etc.  I will probably still wear leather and keep my warm wool socks.  If I’m at my nana’s house, I will eat what she cooked for me.

I recently became aware of ther term “flexitarian“.  This is someone who eats a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats meats.  I’m not much of a label person, but I suppose that is a good way of describing what I believe my diet has transformed into.

Tomorrow I start 30 Holiday Celebrations, starting with World Vegan Day!

Two hundred and forty-four

Is Vegan right for everyone?

Many of you know that I have recently been struggling for the first time in my life with health problems. When I discovered that my problems were a direct result of my vegan diet I was devastated.  2 months ago, after learning the hard way that not everyone is capable of maintaining their health as a vegan, I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life and gave up veganism and returned to eating an omnivorous diet…” – Tasha, A Vegan No More, voracioueats.com

As I was checking out vegan recipes on VoraciousEats.com the other day, I started reading about Tasha’s journey from being a “vegangelical” to a meat-eating omnivore.  Despite being so pro-vegan, a slew of health problems required her to start eating animal products again (despite many tears and trying for months every alternative possible), and her health returned immediately .

It’s a long but fascinating read on one woman’s story of how both her eating habits and her beliefs changed.  If you have time, vegan or not, it’s a great other side to the lifestyle I’ve adapted over the past month and a good balance to the hardcore vegans I have talked to and researched.

After writing the post, Tasha had tens of thousands of views, hundreds of comments, e-mails and tweets.  She had people encourage her, and others threaten her family’s life (funny that a vegan who is opposed to killing animals threatens human life).  She retorted with another post: Vegan Defector Talks Back, answering questions and responding to some of the negative comments she received.

I think it’s important to show the other side of the vegan story.  Humans do need certain vitamins that can only come from animal products (specifically B12, although this can come from supplements if your body accepts them).  And we are omnivores, coming from the Latin ‘omni’ or everything, meaning we eat what is available – opportunistic eaters.  Therefore, we can thrive on a vegetarian/vegan diet, or with meat.

I’ve read a lot on veganism over the past month and I do agree that it is a great choice to make for your health and your body (and factory farm animals and the environment), as long as you are very aware of what you are eating and making sure you get all the nutrients you need.  I also believe that a little bit of meat, in moderation, and that is free-range, local, organic, and you know where it is coming from, is not necessarily bad.  More on this topic tomorrow for my final post of my vegan month…

Two hundred and forty-three

My first impression of Skinny Bitch (#1 New York Times Bestseller) 

The other day I was sitting in Urban Herbivore in Kensington Market (vegan sandwiches, grain bowls, salads, curries, juices) having lunch and I really wanted to bring out Skinny Bitch and continue reading it (a book I figured I had to read as it’s probably one of the highest selling/most popular books on veganism there is).  I was too embarrassed.

First of all, wouldn’t it be weird to read a “becoming vegan” book in a vegan restaurant?  Secondly, I knew from the moment I started reading it, I hated it.  I don’t hate the message – it’s all of the things I’ve mentioned in the blog in more detail with lots of scientific data and endnotes with all of the sources.  I actually don’t even hate as much the fact that it poses as a weight-loss book in order to get people to start reading, then bombards the reader with how they need to become vegan (my friend bought the book and was taken totally by surprise when the book started talking about animal slaughter).  The biggest problem I have with it is the language.  It’s as if throwing in a few “bitch”, “shut the f__k up” and “fat-pig syndrome” makes it hip.  As if adding “chemical shit storm”, calling meat “dead, rotting, decomposing flesh” and saying “go suck your mother’s tits” will shock the reader into listening to the message.

My second impressions of Skinny Bitch

I wrote this first paragraph before I really got in to the book .  And I still hate the way it is written with words like “big, steamy dump” and “cheap asshole”. But I do appreciate all the facts in each chapter and the message to empower everyone to “trust no one”, read labels, do your research and choose healthy foods to put in your body.  At the end authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin admit the book has nothing to do with being skinny, but instead being healthy and “treating your body like the temple it is”.  That’s a message I agree with, even if I hate the profanity used to get the message across.

Other interesting books to read on veganism

There are quite a few books out there published about veganism.  I bought Alicia Silverstone The Kind Life, but haven’t had time to really get into it.  It does look like it has some great recipes and lots of information in an easily digestible format.  Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis wrote Becoming Vegan, as I mentioned on yesterday’s post.  Click here for a few other books from chooseveg.com.

Two hundred and forty-two

Raw Vegan Food Diet

Raw food is defined as food with temperatures not above 118 degrees Fahrenheit.  Someone practicing a raw food diet would generally eat above 75% by weight of their food intake raw.

Last night I went to a lecture by renowned author, registered dietician and nutritionist Vesanto Melina at the University of Toronto on “Raw Food Diets: What’s True?  What’s Not?”  Being vegan for this month has been fascinating, but I’m not sure I’m ready for a complete raw diet.  It would be hard in the cold winter months to give up hot comfort foods.  And how healthy is it, really?  Are there higher chances of food poisoning?  Can you get enough nutrients?  And what about taste?  Do I have to sacrifice taste for a healthy diet?  I sat down at the beginning of the lecture wary, but open to learning and hearing what this co-author of what the gentleman from the Toronto Vegetarian Society who introduced her called the “bible” for vegetarians (Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, and now Becoming Raw) has to say.

I am so glad I went.  There were some really interesting things I learned about raw and cooked foods and what choices to make to keep food as healthy as possible (with as many vitamins, nutrients, minerals and enzymes intact).  Vesanto Melina is a very knowledgeable woman, who wasn’t there to preach or convince anyone that one way is right.  She was rather explaining different choices you can make, telling you the facts, helping you in whatever stage of nutrition you are at, and then leaving it up to you to come to your own conclusions.

There was tons of information, but here are a few things all of us should know, meat-eaters or not (all from scientific studies and research – see her website for more details, nutrispeak.com):

  • Cooking food destroys enzymes that help in the digestion process, reduces nutrients and phytochemicals, and reduces some of the protective effects of food.
  • Steaming vegetables briefly (and keep the leftover water for stock because it is full of the nutrients lost in the steaming) results in a loss of under 30% of enzymes, so still helps in your digestion.
  • Boiling (in soups, stews) also keeps a lot of the nutrients in the broth and is healthier for you than bbq, baking, grilling or frying.
  • Cooking muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish or poultry, at high temperatures (such as frying or grilling on an open flame/bbq) causes heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to form.  Exposure to high levels of HCAs could cause cancer. (more at cancer.gov)
  • Browning of food (when an amino acid reacts with a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat) such as roast beef or seared steak causes advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which have been linked to diabetes (one of many studies here).
  • Good news, though – cooked tomatoes, for example ketchup, has been proven to help prevent prostate cancer.
  • Not all raw food is good for you, though.  Raw button mushrooms contain agaritine which is toxic to your liver and raw shitake mushrooms contain formaldehyde.  Cook six minutes and it reduces these harmful toxins greatly, or marinate and dehydrate.  Buckwheat greens contain fagopyrin which is toxic to humans and can cause hypersensitivity to sunlight, skin irritation, swelling, and dizziness.
  • Many sea vegetables, like kelp and hijiki have been found to have high heavy metal content, as a result of the pollution found in our oceans.  Arsenic and mercury have been found in high quantities in hijiki and should be avoided.
  • If you decide to become a raw foodist (or even a vegan) you need to take supplements of B12 and Vitamin D (if no exposure to the sun – for example in winter) and make sure to eat Omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, flax seed oil).
  • Raw foods have been found to benefit arthritis, fibromyalgia, obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  Raw foods have anti-inflammatory properties that will help with anyone who has problems in their joints.  The high amount of fiber binds and carries out carcinogens from your body.
I don’t think I will become a complete raw foodist any time soon.  However, I will be thinking about my cooking (or choosing not to cook) choices to help maximize their health benefits.  More raw foods will be finding their way into my diet.  Although I still think you’re giving up a lot of taste in exchange for health!  But our health is pretty damn important…